NFL Divisional Round Playoffs
Last week Baltimore went into New England and handily beat a Patriot team that had won their last 11 home playoff games. This week they travel to Indianapolis to take on the winning-est team of the past decade in an 8 p.m. start on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Going into the New England game as a 3.5 point underdog, most people felt that the Patriots' mystique and past success in the postseason would be too much for the Ravens to overcome. Thanks to an 83-yard touchdown run by RB Ray Rice on the first play from scrimmage and a forced fumble by Terrell Suggs on the Patriots' first possession of the game, Baltimore jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back in their 33-14 wild-card playoff win.
The real key to this win was twofold.
First, they were able to effectively run the ball, gaining a total of 234 yards on the ground. It was so effective that QB Joe Flacco only attempted 10 passes all day, completing four for 34 yards.
Second was the pressure their defense was able to put on Patriot QB Tom Brady. They forced Brady into turning the ball over four times, including three interceptions. A big part of their success was the ability to execute the game plan to perfection as New England was never in this game from the start.
Baltimore has basically been a tale of two teams this season. Offensively, they started out like a house on fire scoring 30 or more points five times in their first seven games. Flacco was throwing the ball over 30 times a game, and the Ravens were lighting up the scoreboard through the air. All the while questions about their defense began to arise as they were also giving up quite a few points as well.
The second half of the season started with a few tough losses and suddenly their offense began to sputter. In a Week 11 loss to Indianapolis, they were able to hold the Colts to two touchdowns, but only managed five fields on their own in 17-15 loss. Since that point they have developed the balance that has got them to this point; an offense built around an effective running game and a defense built around stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback.
Indianapolis is definitely not the flashiest team in the league, but they do know how to win. If it weren’t for a controversial decision to rest their starters at the end of the year, they could have very well gone undefeated in the regular season.
With four-time MVP Peyton Manning leading the offense, they always have a chance to win no matter what the situation may be. They had numerous come-from-behind victories this year as they always seem to find a way to score when they need to the most.
As a team they are very well balanced as well. They come into this game ranked seventh in points scored and eighth in points allowed. They tend to be very workmen like in their approach toward games, often just scoring enough points to win as opposed to blowing teams off the field. The main thing to remember about the Colts is the fact that they win a heck of a lot more than they lose.
For Baltimore, they need to duplicate their performance from a week ago. If they can effectively run the ball against the Colts, they will be able to chew up the clock, but more importantly keep Manning on the sidelines. When Indianapolis does have the ball, they need to have their linebackers go after Manning, making him as uncomfortable in the pocket as possible. Most importantly they need to protect the ball as any turnovers in a game like this will be disastrous.
For Indianapolis, they need to be able to stop the run and create some third and long situations that forces Flacco to put the ball in the air. They ended the season ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed so they will have to do a much better job in this week’s game. On offense, they have to be willing to take what the Ravens will give them. Manning knows how to win games in the fourth quarter so they can afford to remain patient if the offense sputters early on.
Despite the fact that Indianapolis has won every game they tried to, they have not gotten the level of respect they deserve. Granted, I was impressed with the Ravens performance last week, but in this game they are stepping up a few too many notches in their weight class. I like the Colts and the UNDER .
- Baltimore is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games.
- Baltimore is 2-3-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road.
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Baltimore’s last 6 games on the road.
- Baltimore is 0-5 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Indianapolis.
- Indianapolis is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games.
- Indianapolis is 22-3 SU in its last 25 games.
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Indianapolis’s last 6 games.
- Indianapolis is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games at home.